New Wilmington, PA
If you really want to get Catheryn Moose’s dander up, refer to her husband’s peers as just dumb old farmers.
“Farmers today have got to be veterinarians, business men, mechanics, agronomists,” she said.
If anyone should know, it would be Catheryn. She was born in 1926 on a 150-acre farm on Leesburg Station Road that had been in her family since the land grants after the Revolutionary War. Her parents, Pearson and Raymie Cox, were farmers through and through. The family worked the land the hard way.
“Dad farmed with horses,” Catheryn said, “ and we had no electricity until the early 1940s, so we all had to milk the cows by hand – early in the morning before school, and again in the evening.
That “we all” included Catheryn and her siblings – Louise, Roscoe, and Wayne.
“When we finally got electricity, the first thing Dad bought was a milking machine. We had chickens, and Dad peddled eggs in his car. In the winter we butchered every week. Every Friday night we wrapped meat, such as hamburg and sausage. Back then they didn’t have all the fuss about inspections.”
The good thing about working hard on the farm was that the Depression had little impact on the family.
“I didn’t realize about the Depression until I got out of high school and went to work in New Castle. I heard these girls talking about their parents standing in bread lines. We always had something to eat – chickens, cows, pigs, and mother had a big garden. We didn’t have any money, but nobody else had any money, either.”
After completing elementary school at the one-room Ligo school in seven years, Catheryn attended New Wilmington High School. She wanted to be a teacher like her mother and sister, but her father told her she would not be going to college. So she made the most out of her opportunities in high school.
“We had a wonderful business teacher in New Wilmington High School,” Catheryn said. “I took every course I could under her.”
She graduated from high school while she was still 17. Then, as she puts it, it was the country farm girl off to the big city.
“I went to New Castle to go to the New Castle Business College. While I was there, one of the big trucking companies had a secretary who got sick overnight. They called the school to ask if they had anybody who could fill in. The head of the college called me in and said that I was wasting my time in the college because I already knew shorthand, typing, and bookkeeping. So I went to work for the company. When the six weeks were up, they gave me a good recommendation.
Catheryn worked for a small farm supply store before getting a job in the accounting department of Penn Power – but not for very long.
“I was bound and determined that I was not going to marry a farmer. But the boy up the road looked pretty good, so. . . .”
The boy was Dick Moose, a friend of Catheryn’s older brother.
“We started going together when I was 17. We had a small wedding at home in 1946, when I was 20 and he was 23.”
With Dick, Catheryn picked up not only a new last name, but also a new first name.
“He thought Dick and Kate sounded better than Dick and Catheryn.”
Dick had also grown up on a farm, not far from the Coxes. Being farmers, Dick and his brother were deferred from service in World War II. At the time of his marriage, Dick was a partner on his father’s farm with his father and brother.
In 1948, their first son Gerald (Jerry) was born; in 1949, Dick and Kate bought the farm; and in 1950, their second son John was born.
While Dick worked the farm, Kate was what you could call the Chief Admin Officer of the business.
“ I was the bookkeeper and record keeper,” she said. “We had registered Jerseys, so I kept all the registration and health papers. I was also the “go-fer,” running after parts and whatever else was needed because it seemed like I could get away more easily.”
Dick loved raising cattle, in spite of the long hours and hard work. He aimed at excellence, and achieved it.
“Taking care of the cows wasn’t just Dick’s job. It was also his hobby. When the boys were in 4H, we showed at the Lawrence County and Stoneboro fairs. The last year we showed at Lawrence County, we had the grand champion and the reserve champion.”
Those achievements weren’t just flashes in the pan. Many years the Mooses had the top Jersey herd in the state.
“One year we had the number two in herd in the nation, in terms of milk production. Another year one of our heifers got the highest price ever in the National Pot of Gold Sale at the National Jersey Cattle Club. The milk we produced was premium Jersey milk, which used to get a higher price at cheese factories because they could get more cheese out of it.”
Both Dick and Kate were active in organizations and community service. Both served on the Penn State Agricultural Extension Board. And both were committed to the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Mercer, where Kate served as a deacon and Dick as an elder.
Dick was a director of the Western Pennsylvania Jersey Cattle Club and a director of the Pennsylvania Farmers Association. He also served on Mercer School Board for 12 years.
Kate’s involvement in organizations often made use of her bookkeeping skills.
“I was secretary-treasurer of Mercer County Dairy Herd Improvement for twenty years, treasurer of Neshannock Presybterian Church in New Wilmington for ten or twelve years, and treasurer of the Mercer County Republican Women. And I served as East Lackawannock Township Auditor for 25 years. I was very good at getting these big jobs that didn’t pay anything.”
It got to the point that people would get ask her to do more and more, saying, “Well, you don’t have a job so you can do it.”
“So I got a job at Westminster College as a typist in the Economics and Business Department for four or five years.”
While Dick’s passion was his farming, Kate’s was her bookkeeping.
“I love to do bookkeeping,” she said. “If I ws really upset about something, I would go down and work on the books and calm myself down.”
Both Dick and Kate were so involved in their pursuits that it was difficult for them to get away.
“Dick said we would save our money and travel, but we never took a vacation until we went to Colorado for two weeks in 1979. After a few days there, Dick asked my cousin if there was anything he could do. There was a big pile of logs. He cut them up with a chain saw and stacked them. When we went to bed that night, he said, ‘I’m tired, but I feel better.’ He had never gone two weeks without working.”
They were able to take a few other trips – to a National Jersey Club event in California, to Maine, New York State, Florida, and twice to Colorado. In 1982, they went on an Anderson Coach and Travel trip to the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. They also took a few short family trips, to Watkins Glen, New York, and to Niagara Falls.
“I believe our little two boys were more fascinated by the shower in the hotel room than they were by the falls,” Kate said, “because we didn’t have a shower at home.”
In 1984, Dick sold all this cattle, In 1987, his favorite nephew bought the farm and some cows. Dick continued to work for him.
“After we sold the farm I didn’t have anything to do,” Kate said. “I saw an ad in one of the farm papers about a job in agricultural statistics for the Department of Agriculture. For the next ten or twelve years, I went all over Mercer, Crawford, Warren, Lawrence, Butler, and Beaver Counties. We would go out in the Spring to find out what the farmers were planting. Then we would go out again in the Fall to see what production they got. We also counted cattle and other animals.”
During 1992, Dick developed stomach cancer. One day in July, he was scheduled for cancer surgery.
“He got up at 4:30 a.m. as usual to go out and milk the cows. At 9:00 he went to the hospital. That was the last day he went to the barn. He died six weeks later.”
Kate continued to work for the Department of Agriculture for another four years. She also started taking many trips with Anderson Coach and Travel – to Alaska, Branson,Nova Scotia,Newfoundland, even Australia.
At 83, Kate remains active. She goes to water aerobics once a week, Senior activities at Brady Springs twice a week, and events such as the Fourth of July Tea Party in Mercer, the Memorial Day 500 activities in Mercer, and Victorian Days – where she sold apple dumplings at the Republican Headquarters.
This level of activity is consistent with Kate’s basic philosophy of life.
“It upsets me when someone says they are bored. If you’re bored, there’s something the matter with you. Go out and do something.”
That’s what Dick and Kate did all of their lives, and she’s not about to stop now.
Excerpted from Lives of Quiet Inspiration, Volume 4, by Joe Zentis. Hermitage, PA: Green Street Press, 2010